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Coronavirus relief effort planned to support Calgary jazz artists

Kodi Hutchinson has a family and a home – and he pays for it through music.

Like many musicians, he has a broad range of gigs that help him make a living. He also tours with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra and is artistic director for JazzYYC.

Hutchinson and many others in the Calgary jazz community have been without regular gig work since the holiday season. Major event season was just about to get underway when the mass gathering restrictions for the COVID-19 were put in place. 

In a matter of hours, after the pandemic was announced, Hutchinson lost his job.

“Being an artist requires far more work than most people realize. Artists make many sacrifices and are very dedicated to their craft,” Hutchinson said.

“We work seven days a week for a small percentage of what other professionals typically make. Our buffer is much smaller than most to survive this type of tumult.”

Relief spearheaded by Calgary music community

In response to the pressures, Calgary musician Aimee-Jo Benoit and a collective of Calgary event producers, artists, and fans formed Calgary Jazz Relief (CJR). It’s a support system to help others in their community ride out the COVID-19 crisis.

Benoit said many musicians don’t meet the federal government requirements to apply for emergency benefits.

“Our community will experience a very big gap in assistance, due to the complex nature in which the jazz community makes their income,” said Benoit.

“According to the new Federal Emergency Support Benefit guidelines, you must have made no income for a two-week period to qualify.”

The CJR was created at the beginning of March 2020. At first, they were able to have their meetings face to face, but as soon as the COVID-19 situation got worse, they met up over Google Hangouts and Zoom to move the project further.

Right now, the coronavirus has had a ripple effect on the industry.

“People are afraid to be in rooms with one another so lessons have to shift online or they won’t happen,” said Hutchinson.”

“Then, the reality is that music is not a ‘necessity’. With so many people out of work, musicians are not a high priority so cancellations are high. This means pretty much everything has shut down for music.”

Musician support system for today the future

CJR also want this movement to be a permanent solution – not just for the current crisis. They’re currently seeking non-profit status.

“So right now, we’re dealing with the emergent needs. But you know, in six months to a year, we want to move into a long-term infrastructure,” Benoit said.

Musicians are not the only ones affected, event producers, technicians and everybody in that sector as well.

The biggest concern for the CJR is that their group gets their everyday needs met. For that, they have created a GoFundMe page that has been set-up for financial donations.

They will also be seeking in-kind donations and distributing funds to those who apply and qualify for assistance.

The Calgary Jazz Relief has been created for professional jazz musicians residing in Calgary and the surrounding communities within roughly 100 kilometers. That includes Airdrie, Cochrane, Canmore, Bragg Creek, Black Diamond or Turner Valley.

CJR has three specific goals: to connect with artists in need and provide financial relief resources, strengthen the community’s potential outreach and provide long term relief for their professional community in times of crisis.